2/06/2018

1966 Gibson J-50 ADJ Slope Dreadnought Guitar




For a '60s J-50, this one is a cannon. Contrary to Martin's bulking-up of bracing as they built into the '60s and '70s, Gibson bracing got lighter in the '60s and the top thickness thinner. This made boomier, airier sounding guitars with mellower top-ends that definitely suited the folksy-strummers of that decade. It's not often that you get a Gibson jumbo from the '60s that really punches, but they fill out the sound a great deal and don't tend to cover-up a singer's voice. Lighter bracing means these often get a bit more belly behind the bridge (this one has it, though it's stable) rather than the '50s "light doming" of the whole top over time, though.

I actually finished work on this guitar last Friday, but had to wait to post on it for two 1/4" pearl dots for the bridge to come in the mail with one of my regular orders. That meant I got to bang on it at our Saturday jam and -- hoo boy -- this one's loud and forward. It was punching through in the mix which included an '04 rosewoood J-45 and a '52 D-28 as well as bass, banjos, and mandolins.

Hyperbole aside, this guitar is actually in pretty good shape aside from top touch-ups around the soundhole and fretboard extension and an overspray to the top finish overall. The rest of the finish on the guitar is 100% original, too, with the usual Gibson weather-checking and crackle throughout. The top shows its checking under the new overspray, however. Oh -- and the pickguard was removed at some point. Despite the serial number indicating '66 through '68, I'm almost certain this guitar was a '66 as it came with an original ceramic adjustable saddle -- something that was (thankfully) replaced in '67 and up with rosewood or ebony.

My repairs included regluing several braces (there was evidence of old glue jobs in the past), regluing the bridge, making a new compensated rosewood saddle, installing replacement Kluson-style tuners, and giving it a fret level/dress and setup. It's playing spot-on with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret, a straight neck, and strung with 54w-12s. The truss works as it should and the guitar is stable in service.

The only cracks on the guitar are a couple of tiny hairlines at the upper part of the soundhole (repaired) and two tight little hairlines on the top right at the edge near the waist. Almost the entire length of the latter cracks are covered by bracing or kerfing underneath and I've sealed them up, anyhow, so I don't expect them to cause mischief. There are two old plugged holes on the top where volume and tone controls for a magnetic pickup would've been installed, one filled jack-hole on the lower-bout side, and two filled tiny holes near the soundhole where the pickup must've been installed.

Aside from the tuners, the only other replacement parts are the saddle (as mentioned) and a set of ebony bridge pins. The remains of the original pins, the original (terrible) ceramic saddle, and the original (terrible, Japanese individual-unit) tuners are stowed in the case that belongs to the guitar.


As you can see, there's some cool "silking" to the wood grain in the top.


This guitar has obviously had a ton of play when you look at the board. The nut is quite narrow at 1 9/16" across -- though this does have a steeper (10-12" or so?) radius and to the board and a mild-medium C-shaped profile on the back. I find it fast and comfortable without that "modern" ultra-skinny front-to-back, cramp-your-hands thing going on.


As usual for the period, the frets are jumbo in width but fairly low in height. A couple of level/dress jobs have left them lower, too, but with plenty of life to go. The fret dots are faux-pearl plastic.



Note all the pickwear around the soundhole and also the darker areas where someone tried to touch-up old pickwear. Also note the two tiny holes filled at the inner ring of the rosette -- these must've been for mounting a magnetic pickup.


Here's the original adjustable bridge in all its glory. Gibson almost never installed these in the correct place and so the original saddles (in this case the icky-sounding white ceramic type) never intonated correctly as you'd move up the neck. My solution on almost all of these old adjustable-saddle Gibsons is to replace (as in this case) or recut old saddles so they compensate correctly. In this case, I've made a new, rosewood saddle to do just that. It also sounds way better than the original ceramic one.


I actually really like these adjustable bridges because they let the player set action height quick and efficiently right before a show if need-be. The only drawbacks I see are a slightly different tone on the treble response -- they give an airier, more archtop-biting treble sound vs. a non-adjustable saddle -- and the fact that the adjustable posts leave a snaggy "head" above the saddle that some players will find obnoxious.

Neither of these things bother me, but in the past I've modified this saddle setup in various ways to help owners or buyers who don't like them. To deal with the posts, I've cut-off the heads and then slotted the smaller post-shaft remaining to accept a mini screwdriver. This leaves adjustability but doesn't grab your hand. To deal with the difference in tone, I've simply made non-adjustable rosewood and ebony saddles that fill the same space -- allowing one to go back to an adjustable saddle if desired at some point. Rosewood and ebony also happen to sound awesome as saddle materials on a flattop, too.


Here I've tilted the body to show some of the scratching in the top.


There's plenty of pickwear here, as you can see.


Here you can see the two filled control holes on the top, treble, lower bout area. It's not a bad job at all.




The back glows a nice "golden ginger-ale" color if you catch it in the light a little better than in these pictures.


The repro-style tuners are not fancy but they're effective.


There's a little bit of wear in the middle of the back. Otherwise it just has minor scratching and a lot of weather-check in the finish.





Here's that filled jack-hole on the side.





A presumably-original, unbranded hard case comes with it.

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